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Business trends

Japan's aging fitness clubs brace for tough workout

Elderly-oriented operators threatened by smaller upstarts

A Central Sports fitness center in Tokyo. Many full-service facilities in Japan are equipped with swimming pools. (Photo by Wataru Suzuki) 

TOKYO -- Things can seem pretty slow most mornings at a Central Sports fitness center in Tokyo's Adachi district. People can be seen walking in circles in the swimming pool, rubbing their legs in the studio or resting in a massage chair in the lounge. Instead of the adrenaline-pumping music common to many health clubs, just quiet chatter fills the air.

"I come here to stay healthy, and to keep in touch with friends," said a 67-year-old female member, a regular attendee of morning yoga classes. "I joined 10 years ago after moving to this area. Before that I had never gone to a gym but now I visit five times a week."

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